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Prediction for No. 9 Florida Atlantic vs. No. 5 Tennessee in Sweet 16 of 2023 NCAA Tournament

Nick Simon takes you through what they think will happen and gives a score prediction for FAU-Tennessee in the Sweet 16 of the 2023 NCAA Tournament.

Syndication: The Knoxville News-Sentinel Caitie McMekin/News Sentinel / USA TODAY NETWORK

The Sweet 16 of the 2023 NCAA Tournament will tip off tonight and the second matchup of the East Region will feature the No. 5 Tennessee Volunteers battling the No. 9 Florida Atlantic Owls. The game will take place at Madison Square Garden in New York City with the tip estimated for 9 p.m. ET on TBS.

Let’s run through this matchup and see how this will play out.

No. 9 Florida Atlantic vs. No. 5 Tennessee Prediction

Tennessee enters this game as a five-point favorite at DraftKings Sportsbook with the total installed at 129.5. That means Vegas is predicting the Vols to win a fairly competitive contest that won’t get too pointsy.

A huge reason for that is Tennessee’s defense, which is currently ranked No. 1 in adjusted efficiency on KenPom for a multitude of reasons. It has been extremely difficult for opponents to score on the likes of Olivier Nkamhoua, Zakai Zeigler and company as UT is holding foes to just 37.2% from the field. They have also been the nation’s best team defending against the three, limiting opponent’s to a nation-low 26.4%. Those shooting percentages can be attributed to UT forcing teams to play at a slower pace offensively and being at a size disadvantage isn’t going to make things easy for FAU.

However, it’s not like the Vols have been lights out from the field on the other end of the floor and that’s where the underdog Owls can take advantage. FAU has held opponents to just 44.9% shooting from two and the presence of the 7’1” Vladislav Goldin in the middle has played a huge role in that. UT thrives on second-chance opportunities off offensive rebounds and the big man may help mitigate that.

Florida Atlantic’s path to a win here is jumping out to a double-digit lead in the first half by getting the backcourt tandem of Johnell Davis and Alijah Martin going early. I don’t anticipate that happening. I think the Owls will get dragged down into a rock fight and won’t be able to play at the quick pace that they’re accustomed to playing. Once the Vols are able to establish the terms of this matchup, they should be able to build up just enough of a lead to cover and win a low-scoring affair at MSG. Don’t fade Rick Barnes just yet!

Prediction: Tennessee 65, FAU 57